One of the most accomplished position players from Long Island in Major League Baseball history is joining NYIT Athletics.
MLB veteran Frank Catalanotto has been named head baseball coach, director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation Dan Vélez announced Thursday.
Catalanotto played 14 major league seasons with the Tigers, Rangers, Blue Jays, Brewers and Mets.
“We’re fortunate at NYIT to have a world-class university with a passionate fan base, tremendous student-athletes, coaches and staff, and an impressive record of success,” Vélez said. “These thoughts were reconfirmed during the search process by the volume of excellent applicants and alumni interest in this hire. From the beginning we knew we wanted and needed a head baseball coach who displayed an incredible high level of integrity, work ethic, and grit, and who would also take our mantra of “Honor, Pride, Champions” to heart. I have no doubt Frank will do exactly that.
“We needed a head coach who understood what Tech baseball was, is and will be. I am thrilled to welcome Frank to Bears Nation and look forward to working side by side with him as we build NYIT baseball into a Division II powerhouse.”
He appeared in 1,265 major league games. He owns a .291 career average and .357 career on-base percentage. He saw action at five positions — left field, right field, first base, second base and third base — as well as at designated hitter.
Catalanotto hit .330 and finished fifth in the American League in batting average in 2001 with Texas, behind only Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Giambi, Roberto Alomar and Bret Boone.
In 2000, Catalanotto set Rangers records for consecutive at-bats with a hit (10) and plate appearances reaching base (13). He then set the Blue Jays record for hits in a nine-inning game with a 6-for-6 performance on May 1, 2004 against the White Sox.
“The greatest compliment I can give Frank is that he earned everything he received in his career,” seven-time All-Star Michael Young wrote in the foreword to Catalanotto’s memoir, Heart and Hustle. “He developed himself from a young kid out of high school to one of the game’s most respected players. He learned to play multiple positions, ran the bases aggressively and intelligently, and developed a fantastic approach to hitting. In short, he was a player that you wanted on your team. When guys were hurt, tired and enduring the late stages of a physically exhausting season, Frank was one of the guys we could depend on to lead with his toughness and grit.”
Catalanotto, 44, had a standout prep career at Smithtown East High School on Long Island. He had committed to play baseball at Seton Hall. However, he instead signed a professional contract after being drafted by the Tigers in the 10th round in 1992.
Arguably, Catalanotto is among the three most accomplished position players from Long Island in MLB history, along with Hall of Famers Carl Yastrzemski of Bridgehampton and Craig Biggio of Kings Park.
Since completing his playing career with the Mets in 2010, Catalanotto has remained active in the game.
He has served as the lead hitting instructor at Baseball Heaven in Yaphank for the past five years. He also coached with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic in 2013 and 2017 and continues to assist with running youth baseball camps in Toronto for the Blue Jays as well as in Germany, Spain and Italy.
Catalanotto is president of the Frank Catalanotto Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising awareness and aiding with the early intervention of vascular birthmarks.
Now in its 10th year, Catalanotto and wife Barbara started the foundation because of a love for their daughter, Morgan. A vascular birthmark — or hemanginoma — is a type of vascular anomaly of the skin that, if left untreated, can spread rapidly. Shortly after birth, Morgan’s parents identified what turned out be a vascular birthmark on the newborn’s face. Originally misadvised by a physician “to just wait for it to eventually go away,” the Catalanottos were not satisfied.
The eighth annual Frank Catalanotto Foundation Golf Classic, which raises funds for the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation, will be held Aug. 6 at the Old Westbury Golf and Country Club.
Catalanotto was inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
He resides in St. James with Barbara. The couple has four daughters: Morgan (now a volleyball student-athlete at Salisbury University in Maryland) as well as Camdyn, Karson and Gracyn.
Catalanotto joins an NYIT baseball program with a proud tradition. The program’s products include former first-round pick Allen Watson as well as Don Cooper, the longtime pitching coach for the Chicago White Sox.
NYIT joined Division II and debuted in the East Coast Conference in 2018 after spending more than three decades in Division I, including the final four seasons at that level as an independent. The Bears went 13-25-1 overall and 6-18 in the ECC this past season.
Catalanotto was attracted to college coaching in part because of his competitive DNA. Although a racquetball enthusiast, regularly playing that sport has not duplicated the rush of being in uniform in a competitive baseball game.
“I really look forward to the challenge of returning NYIT to being a top-notch baseball program here on Long Island,” Catalanotto said. “I’m confident the experience and knowledge of the game my staff and I have will help take this program back to the top.”